Virtual Clubs, Laptop Ban, Publisher Tools, Accreditation, Translation, APUS, eReaders, Broadband Grants, Framing, Virtual Worlds

Student Clubs, Virtually
by Steve Kolowich
March 10, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

. . . “Mynar, a full-time business administrator by day, is the president and co-founder of the World Campus’s psychology club — a completely online group that sprung up several years ago alongside the World Campus’s psychology program. The club, which has 124 members from far-flung states and several foreign countries, hosts online discussions and video lectures — mostly focusing on career advice — through the campus’s learning management system. It has even organized a meet-up in the virtual world of Second Life. The club also holds video lectures and question-and-answer sessions with guest speakers from different fields of psychology, so online students can learn more about where their degrees can take them and what steps they will need to take to get there. The guests — usually professionals affiliated with Penn State — give the talk in front of a computer-mounted video camera in the office of Brian Redmond, the club’s faculty adviser, and students watching the live feed can ask questions via text.” . . .

Wide Web of Diversions Gets Laptops Evicted from Lecture Halls
by Daniel de Vise
March 9, 2010, The Washington Post

. . . “A generation ago, academia embraced the laptop as the most welcome classroom innovation since the ballpoint pen. But during the past decade, it has evolved into a powerful distraction. Wireless Internet connections tempt students away from note-typing to e-mail, blogs, YouTube videos, sports scores, even online gaming — all the diversions of a home computer beamed into the classroom to compete with the professor for the student’s attention. Professors have banned laptops from their classrooms at George Washington University, American University, the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia, among many others.” . . .

New Battleground for Publishers
by Steve Kolowich
March 9, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

. . . “[Professor Scott] Hildreth started instructing his students to do their homework online through a suite of “Mastering” tools from Pearson, which the publishing giant is marketing alongside its textbooks. Not only does the software tell Hildreth which problems students are getting wrong, it tells him why they are getting them wrong, so he can tailor his class sessions to reinforce certain concepts accordingly. It also relieves him of the burden of grading homework for dozens of students — a task so time-consuming, Hildreth says, that it forces many math and science professors to extrapolate homework grades on assignments based on only a few answers. Historically, this flawed grading method has prompted professors to count homework for a disproportionately small percentage of each student’s overall grade, giving their students little incentive to spend much time on it.”

“Since adopting the online tools, which grade homework automatically, Hildreth has made daily assignments count for a higher percentage of the final grade. Meanwhile, he says he uses the hours he used to spend “mindlessly” grading assignments in tailoring his lectures to be more responsive to what the software’s metadata suggest the students need. Hildreth says he can also measure his students’ success against the grades of students working from the same textbook at other institutions — a good barometer for a professor at a community college like Chabot, which aims to prepare students to gracefully transfer to a four-year college. “ . . .

Unwelcome ‘Help’ from the Feds
by Doug Lederman
March 9, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

. . . “At a series of meetings this month, the last of which is today, department officials have gotten an earful from accreditors complaining that the 76-page draft ‘Guide to the Accrediting Agency Recognition Process’ that the department published last month was too prescriptive and, in some places, seemed to impose specific requirements on accreditors that go beyond current federal law and regulation. Some accrediting officials said they feared that the department were issuing the guidelines as a backdoor way to avoid Congressional limitations on the government’s ability to regulate accreditors.” . . .

[note that page 40 of this guide includes the notice to accreditors that “Requires institutions to verify the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution, methods such as (i) A secure login and pass code; (ii) Proctored examinations; and (iii) New or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identity.”]

Google’s Computing Power Refines Translation Tool
by Miguel Helft
March 8, 2010, New York Times

. . . “Google Translate service handles 52 languages, more than any similar system, and people use it hundreds of millions of times a week to translate Web pages and other text. ‘What you see on Google Translate is state of the art’ in computer translations that are not limited to a particular subject area, said Alon Lavie, an associate research professor in the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.”

“Google’s efforts to expand beyond searching the Web have met with mixed success. Its digital books project has been hung up in court, and the introduction of its social network, Buzz, raised privacy fears. The pattern suggests that it can sometimes misstep when it tries to challenge business traditions and cultural conventions. But Google’s quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems.” . . .

Online Teaching Advice for Matt Wasowski
by Joshua Kim
March 8, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“In my last gig I developed and taught online courses, and trained new online faculty members. Your new teaching role gives me an excuse to boil down some advice I’d give to all new online faculty. It was interesting to me that your institutions faculty training program required you to fly to their campus. In my experience faculty training for online faculty should be done online, using the tools and methods that the instructor will be teaching with. So I’m curious as to why your institution uses this methodology?” . . .

Switching Sides
by Matt Wasowski
March 5, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“Since 2000, I’ve been the host of the Wimba Distinguished Lecture Series, shouting from the rooftops (well, desktops) about how to use modern educational technologies to teach effectively online. But now, after evangelizing for the last decade, I’m switching sides. I am teaching creative writing online as an adjunct professor for Holmes Community College, in Goodman, Mississippi. How the tables have turned.” . . .

College 2.0: More Professors Could Share Lectures Online. But Should They?
by Jeffrey R. Young
March 7, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education

. . . “More and more colleges have installed microphones or cameras in lecture halls and bought easy-to-use software to get lecture recordings online. The latest Campus Computing Survey, which gathers data on classroom technology nationwide, found that 28 percent of colleges have a strategic plan to provide coursecasting equipment, and 35 percent more are working on a plan now. Those plans raise a lot of issues. Some professors are camera shy — at least when it comes to their teaching. Others say they discuss ideas with their students that are not yet ready for prime time. And some administrators are nervous about giving away too much of their educational content as the cost of college continues to rise.” . . .

Fighting a Copyright Charge
by Steve Kolowich
March 4, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“The University of California at Los Angeles on Wednesday announced that it will continue streaming copyrighted videos in online ‘virtual classrooms’ despite legal objections from an educational media trade group.”

“The university’s decision is the latest development in a copyright dispute with the Association for Information and Media Equipment over whether it is legal for the university to convert DVDs from its libraries into a digital format that students can stream from password-protected course Web sites. UCLA considers the practice “essential,” since it allows students to watch the videos on their own computers and on their own time, rather than having to gather in a classroom. Many educators at other colleges have watched the case with intent, waiting to see what implications, if any, the spat might have on their own institutions’ use of streaming video. The trade group, which represents 16 educational films companies, raised the objection last fall, and the university voluntarily suspended the practice while attempting to resolve the issue through talks. Those talks now appear to have failed.” . . .

Not So Private Professors
by Jack Stripling
March 2, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

. . . “Gadsden was placed on administrative leave last week after a student reported two Facebook postings that some have interpreted as threats. On Jan. 21, Gadsden wrote ‘Does anyone know where to find a very discreet hitman? Yes, it’s been that kind of day …’ Another post in the same vein came a month later, as Gadsden opined: ‘had a good day today, DIDN’T want to kill even one student :-).’ Now Friday was a different story.” . . . Until last week, Gadsden said, she thought that by limiting her cyber friendships she could maintain the firewall between her personal life and her role as a professor. But she believes an update to Facebook’s software automatically altered her settings, removing the barriers Gadsden had carefully erected.”

“Colleges have for years been warning students to keep their Facebook and Myspace pages free of embarrassing photos or writings, but a more recent phenomenon is the emergence of concrete policies governing how faculty and other employees use social media. DePaul University and Ball State University, for instance, both have approved social media policies, and Ball State’s specifically notes that social media sites ‘blur the lines between personal voice and institutional voice.’ “ . . .

Philosophy, for Profit
by Marc Parry
Feb. 28, 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education

“The American Public University System is mapping a new model for sustaining, and even expanding, offerings in liberal-arts subjects like history and philosophy. . . . The national boom in online degree programs has largely left liberal arts behind. Small liberal-arts colleges consider it ‘a little dangerous for them to offer stuff online’ because their selling point is a cozy campus, says A. Frank Mayadas, a veteran e-learning advocate and senior adviser to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. And those colleges that did build online programs, he says, generally assumed that the adults who tend to take online courses wanted degrees related to fields that already employ them. That means strong demand for business, not for French literature.”

“Mr. Mayadas argues that the conventional wisdom is a myth. Liberal-arts degrees suit many jobs that don’t require a specialized education, he notes. The American Public University System is proving him right by cashing in on one group of professionals that craves degrees for promotion: soldiers. Two-thirds of the system’s students are active-duty military personnel. They’re driving revenue that shot from $40-million to $107.1-million between 2006 and 2008, according to the company’s most recent annual report to the government. The system, which consists of American Public University and American Military University, doesn’t publish earnings by program. But 22 percent of its 59,300 students, or just over 13,000, are in the School of Arts and Humanities.”

Avatar Rape
by Michael Bugeja
Feb. 25, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“Avatar harassment and sexual assault remain controversial issues because institutions hosting virtual worlds are not accustomed to dealing with — or even discussing — digital forms of these distressing behaviors. Harassment and assault are frequent infractions in virtual environs, including those frequented by students and professors. London journalist Tim Guest, author of Second Lives: a Journey Through Virtual Worlds, estimated that ‘about 6.5 percent of logged-in residents’ have filed one or more abuse reports in Second Life. By the end of 2006, he writes, Linden Lab, creator of Second Life, ‘was receiving close to 2,000 abuse reports a day.’ “

Professor Textblaster
by Marc Parry
Feb. 24, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education

“Mr. McCann, an English instructor at Bay College, in Michigan, is deploying students’ own favorite technology to burn away the memory fog. He blasts his classes text-message reminders using Broadtexter, a free software program used by bands to create mobile fan clubs. Rather than texting tour dates, he keeps the phones in students’ pockets buzzing with regular reminders like ‘Paper 4 is due tomorrow.’ “ . . .

Highlighting E-Readers
by Steve Kolowich
Feb. 23, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“Even before Apple announced the iPad, higher-education technologists predicted that e-book readers were on the brink of becoming a common accessory among college students; last fall, two-thirds of campus CIOs said they believed e-readers would become an “important platform for instructional resources” within five years, according to the Campus Computing Project.”

“Now, as several major universities finish analyzing data from pilot programs involving the latest version of the Amazon Kindle, officials are learning more about what students want out of their e-reader tablets. Generally, the colleges found that students missed some of the old-fashioned note-taking tools they enjoyed before. But they also noted that the shift had some key environmental benefits. Further, a minority of students embraced the Kindle fairly quickly as highly desirable for curricular use.” . . .

A Great Experiment
by Steve Kolowich
Feb. 22, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“It is a grand vision: a global college with no tuition, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. When the higher education entrepreneur Shai Reshef laid out his ambitious plan to build a free university that would use modern technology to spread the promise of a college degree to all corners of the earth, he got an enthusiastic reaction from some high-profile institutions. The United Nations has backed the venture. So has Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. Reshef and his lieutenants also like to mention the many letters of support and offers to pitch in from professors worldwide.” . . .

“A year has now passed since the University of the People opened its virtual doors to the world. And while it appears to be a functioning institution where education is indeed taking place, questions about the project’s long-term viability — and its ability to replicate the essential functions of an actual university — are yet to be answered.” . . .

Also see, “Global University Eliminates Barriers to Education,” by Larry Abramson, March 10, 2010, National Public Radio Morning Edition

Combating Myths About Distance Education
by Todd Gilman
Feb. 22, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education

“In addition to my day job as an academic librarian at Yale University, I have been teaching online courses for several library schools since 2002. I have taught courses on reference, online searching, children’s literature, U.S. government documents (finding them, that is, not creating them), and book and library history — all on a part-time, adjunct basis. I’ve even taught a few online courses on writing or research skills for undergraduates. I enjoy the work and feel confident that I have helped students become better readers, writers, future librarians, curators, and researchers. Yet every time I speak with faculty colleagues who have only taught what distance educators call ‘face to face’ or ‘on ground’ courses, I get the same bewildered responses: ‘I’ve never understood this whole online teaching thing’ or ‘So do you teach via e-mail?’ or ‘Is that like a correspondence course?’ ”

“Hidden beneath the surface of such seemingly innocuous comments and questions is a little jab, which, if put into words, would go something like this: ‘You’re not a real college teacher, are you? If you were, you’d be interacting with students in a bricks-and-mortar classroom like I do.’ ” . . .

5 States Get More Than $300-Million to Expand Broadband Access
by Jill Laster
Feb. 19, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education

“Five states [Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin] have been awarded more than $300-million in grants to expand broadband access at their colleges. The money will be used in part to increase online education. The U.S. Department of Commerce said on Thursday that the states are among those that will receive grants aimed at improving high-speed access.” . . .

Frustration Over ‘Framing’
by Steve Kolowich
Feb. 15, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

. . . “Framing is a technical tactic employed by some Web sites to allow visitors to view content from other Web sites without leaving the first site’s domain. In this case, was directing its users to writing guides on OWL’s site. But instead of sending users to OWL’s site to view the guides, it would send them to a page on’s site that displayed the OWL Web page within a ‘frame’ beneath a banner that bore the logo while attributing the materials to Purdue.”

Purdue officials view framing as an unfair use of their material. They sent a “cease and desist” letter, claiming the company’s framing of its Web pages amounted to a copyright violation. “We encourage people to link to our Web site,” Tammy Conard-Salvo, associate director of the writing lab, told Inside Higher Ed. “But we don’t allow other sites to mirror our content.” Conard-Salvo said displaying OWL resources under the banner suggests that OWL endorses the company — an endorsement the Purdue lab is not keen to give. ‘It simply misrepresents our work,’ she said. ‘It really suggests a relationship with a commercial entity that we don’t have.’ “ . . .

. . . “The legal history of framing does not offer definitive answers. In 1997, the Washington Post Company and several other large media companies sued the Web site TotalNews for framing their pages, arguing that TotalNews was leeching off their original content in order to attract traffic to its own site so it could make money selling advertising space there. But that case was settled out of court, and the copyright implications of framing are still largely speculative.”

Anger Leads to Apology From Google About Buzz
by Miguel Helft
Feb. 14, 2010, New York Times

“Google moved quickly over the weekend to try to contain mounting criticism of Buzz, its social network, apologizing to users for features that were widely seen as endangering privacy and announcing product changes to address those concerns. Todd Jackson, product manager for Gmail and Google Buzz, wrote in a blog post on Saturday that Google had decided to alter one of the most-criticized features in Buzz: the ready-made circle of friends the service provided to new users based on their most frequent e-mail and chat contacts in Gmail. Instead of automatically connecting people, Buzz will in the future merely suggest to new users a group of people they may want to follow or be followed by, he said. Mr. Jackson, who said that the auto-follow feature had been intended to make it easy for people to get started on Buzz, acknowledged the criticism that was heaped on Google in the last few days.” . . .

After Frustrations in Second Life, Colleges Look to New Virtual Worlds
by Jeffrey R. Young
Feb. 14, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education

“Some colleges that have built virtual classrooms in Second Life — the online environment where people walk around as avatars in a cartoonlike world — have started looking for an exit strategy. The virtual world has not lived up to the hype that peaked in 2007, when just about every day brought a new announcement from a college entering Second Life. Today, disenchanted with commercial virtual worlds but still convinced of their educational value, a few colleges have started to build their own, where they have more control.” . . .

“The most ambitious attempt to build an education-friendly virtual world is a project called Open Cobalt, whose leaders plan to announce an initial release in April. The project is led by researchers at Duke University. Their vision is to create a system that operates with data stored on people’s own computers. That will eliminate the need for expensive centralized servers and allow more people to inhabit the system at any given time. The Open Cobalt effort has won more than half a million dollars in grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.” . . .

“Another open-source effort is already up and running. It’s called OpenSimulator, and it is essentially a free knockoff of Second Life. Any college with a spare server and some staff time can use the OpenSimulator software and play God to a virtual world. Or colleges can rent access to the system from a company that has set up servers with the software. ReactionGrid, a company that sells space on OpenSimulator worlds, says professors are switching to their service from Second Life. For $75 per month, plus a $150 set-up fee, a college or department can lease four worlds packed with virtual classrooms. Professors can also call the Immersive Education Initiative, an organization in Boston that gives away free land in OpenSimulator and other open-source virtual worlds for educators and helps them design simulations and other teaching activities there.” . . .

Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus Into Rolling Study Hall
by Sam Dillon
Feb. 11, 2010, New York Times

. . . “on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops. Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.” . . .

“Internet buses may soon be hauling children to school in many other districts, particularly those with long bus routes. The company marketing the router, Autonet Mobile, says it has sold them to schools or districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C. Karen Cator, director of education technology at the federal Department of Education, said the buses were part of a wider effort to use technology to extend learning beyond classroom walls and the six-hour school day.” . . .

E-Library Economics
by Steve Kolowich
Feb. 10, 2010, Inside Higher Ed

“Suzanne Thorin, dean of libraries at Syracuse University talked the talk in November at Educause, urging a crowd of university librarians to ‘move on to a new concept of what the university library is’ — in her view, a place with fewer books and more space for students to sit around and access library resources on their laptops. But when Thorin tried to walk the walk a week later, she found her path obstructed by hundreds of outraged students and professors who chafed at her plan to ship many volumes to remote storage. Thorin might have been visionary in her plan to relieve the library of some of its print collection in an effort to cut library costs, but she was naïve if she thought it wouldn’t meet with resistance on campus. So suggest two studies, slated to be published this spring by the Council on Library and Information Resources, examining the implications of the much-ballyhooed shift to digital library collections.” . . .

Google Set to Showcase Fast Internet
by Miguel Helft
Feb. 10, 2010, New York Times

“Google said Wednesday that it would offer ultrahigh-speed Internet access in some communities in a test that could showcase the kinds of things that would be possible if the United States had faster broadband networks. . . . Google said that over the next six weeks it would solicit proposals from communities interested in the service. Mr. Whitt said he hoped that the service could be deployed by the end of the year in some areas, though he acknowledged it might take longer.”

“Early this year, Google urged the Federal Communications Commission, which is slated to deliver a national broadband plan to Congress next month, to encourage similar kinds of test projects. Mr. Whitt said that Google decided to put its own money behind the idea, though he declined to say how much Google would invest. In a statement, Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the F.C.C., welcomed Google’s announcement. ‘This significant trial will provide an American test bed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed Internet apps, devices and services,’ Mr. Genachowski said. ‘The F.C.C.’s National Broadband Plan will build upon such private-sector initiatives and will include recommendations for facilitating and accelerating greater investment in broadband.’ “

Class Produces Parody of ‘The Office’ to Highlight Challenges of Teaching With Technology
by Jeff Young
Feb. 9, 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Students at the University of Denver created a parody video essay — in the style of the popular TV show “The Office” — to show their frustrations with technology in the classroom and urge professors and students to work together to make classes more lively. Many of the scenes in the six-minute video will probably seem familiar to anyone who has sat in on a college class in recent years: a professor fumbles with his PowerPoint presentation, a student goofs around on Facebook during the lecture, and another student complains about being required to buy laptops when the devices are rarely used for assignments.” . . .

Open Educational Resources Center for California

The OER Center for California provides support for community college educators to find, create, remix, use, and share openly licensed learning content. Together, as knowledge workers, we can learn to share…and share to learn. Designed for California’s community-college faculty members, anyone can use the site to find learning materials in the public domain. The site links to more than 400 open textbooks and peer reviews of open textbooks.

Virtual Clubs, Laptop Ban, Publisher Tools, Accreditation, Translation, APUS, eReaders, Broadband Grants, Framing, Virtual Worlds